LOS ANGELES – Netflix’s “House of Cards” made Emmy history Thursday with a top drama series nomination, the first time that television’s leading awards have recognized a program delivered online as equal in quality to the best that TV has to offer.
The nomination, one of nine nods earned by the political thriller, is a marker in the unfolding revolution in how we receive and watch video entertainment.
“It’s really groundbreaking,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. “It’s beyond our most bold expectations. We were thinking a single nomination would be a win... It’s as much a win for Internet television as it is for the content creators.”
The most Emmy nominations, 17, went to miniseries “American Horror Story: Asylum.” Close behind was “Game of Thrones” with 16 nods, while “Saturday Night Live” and the Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra” earned 15 nominations each, including nods for stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.
The bonanza of nominations for “Game of Thrones” is the swords-and-fantasy show’s most-ever and includes a best drama series nod and three acting bids, including one for Peter Dinklage.
“House of Cards” stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright received acting bids, along with a number of other primarily big-screen actors who have migrated to TV for powerhouse projects, with Douglas and Damon among them.
Spacey suspects the Netflix haul will entice all kind of people into the creating-original-content business. “I think is a great thing because more shows will get produced, more writers will get hired, more actors will get hired, more directors will get hired, more production will happen in this industry and that’s a good thing economically as well as artistically,” he said by phone from Baltimore.
Joining “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones” in the best drama series category are “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “Mad Men” and last year’s winner, “Homeland.”
“Mad Men,” which last year missed out on the best drama trophy that would have been its record-setting fifth, eclipsing fellow four-time winners “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “The West Wing,” gets another shot this year.
“Mad Men” and its creator failed to receive any writing nominations for the first time in the series’ six-year history.
The major broadcast networks were shut out of the prestigious drama series category, a repeat of last year and a particular blow with the entry of Netflix’s streamed drama. “Boardwalk Empire” was the only show not to return in the category, its spot claimed by “House of Cards.”
Besides “American Horror Story: Asylum,” others nominated in the miniseries or movie category are “Behind the Candelabra,” “Phil Spector,” “Political Animals,” “Top of the Lake” and “The Bible,” which was a hit for the History channel and is getting a sequel on NBC.
Hot British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who gained fame in “Sherlock” and played the villain in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” is nominated as best lead actor in the movie and miniseries category for “Parade’s End.”
In the comedy series category, nominees are “The Big Bang Theory,” ‘’Girls,” ‘’Louie,” “Modern Family,” ‘’Veep” and “30 Rock,” recognized for its final season. Another outgoing comedy, “The Office,” didn’t receive a best series nod.
Another Netflix series, “Arrested Development,” didn’t earn a best comedy series but scored three nominations, including one for star Jason Bateman.
Some pundits thought it might earn online’s first best comedy series nod, given that it won a trophy in the category for Fox before the network canceled it.
A 6-year-old TV academy rules change allows online entries to compete with cable and broadcast programs, although so far Internet shows have popped up only in lower-profile categories. That changed with the 65th Primetime Emmys.
“It certainly is a marker of the new era. ... It will send shock waves through the industry,” Tim Brooks, a TV historian and former network executive, predicted on the eve of the nominations.
They were announced by Aaron Paul, a previous winner for “Breaking Bad” and nominated again this year, and, in a surprise, Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris. He filled in for “House of Cards” actress Kate Mara, kept in Santa Fe, N.M., by a plane’s mechanical malfunction.
“Special thanks to Kate Mara for getting me out of the house before my kids start screaming and crying,” Harris said.
An in-demand emcee, the “How I Met Your Mother” star earned a bid for hosting Broadway’s Tony Awards.
Joining Spacey in the contest for best drama series actor are Hugh Bonneville of “Downton Abbey”; Jon Hamm of “Mad Men”; Jeff Daniels of “The Newsroom” and Damian Lewis of “Homeland,” last year’s winner.
Kevin Bacon, one of the big-screen stars trying their hand at TV, was not recognized in the category for “The Following.”
“Breaking Bad,” now in its final episodes on AMC, goes out with a best drama Emmy nomination. “What’s so great about this thing is it’s going to bring us all back together. A little family reunion. So we get to come back together and celebrate the time we had together and the work that we did. It’s very exciting,” said Paul.
Actresses nominated for their drama series work besides Wright include Vera Farmiga of “Bates Hotel”; Michelle Dockery of “Downtown Abbey;” Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men”; Connie Britton of “Nashville” and Kerry Washington of “Scandal.” Claire Danes, last year’s winner for “Homeland,” got a nod.
If Washington wins, she will be the first African-American to claim the best drama actress Emmy.
Besides Bateman, the nominees for best actor in a comedy are Jim Parsons for “The Big Bang Theory”: Matt LeBlanc for “Episodes”; Don Cheadle for “House of Lies”; Louis C.K. for “Louie” and Alec Baldwin for “30 Rock.”
Jon Cryer, last year’s surprise winner for “Two and a Half Men,” didn’t make the cut this year.
Actresses competing for top comedy acting honors are Laura Dern for “Enlightened”; Lena Dunham for “Girls”; Edie Falco for “Nurse Jackie”; Amy Poehler for “Parks and Recreation” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who claimed the trophy last year for “Veep.”
Most of the 2012 trophy holders have a chance to repeat.
Maggie Smith was nominated again as best supporting actress in a drama for “Downton Abbey,” which has brought her two trophies. Julie Bowen is up for supporting actress in a comedy for “Modern Family.”
However, Eric Stonestreet, who claimed the supporting actor award last year for the show, was snubbed while castmates Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell got nods.
Henry Bromell, an executive producer for “Homeland” who died in March at age 65, received a posthumous writing nomination for the drama.
HBO received a leading 108 nominations, followed by CBS and NBC with 53 each, ABC with 45, Showtime with 31 and AMC and FX Networks with 26 each. PBS has 24 and Fox received 19.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Emmy ceremony will air Sept. 22 on CBS.
AP Entertainment Writers Sandy Cohen and Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.